ENGL 316 Reflection

Ian Luehr-Sele
3 min readDec 11, 2020

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know what to expect from this class at the start of the semester, especially with the impact of COVID-19. When I signed up for this course, I was not looking that forward to it as I am not a big fan of being required to do a whole lot writing. My motivation mor this class seemed to be reduced even more so when I realized it would be entirely online. In short, I thought this class was going to be pretty boring and not very engaging. To my pleasant surprise, I was wrong.

While I did not find keeping a naturalist notebook extremely exciting, I did not find it to be boring. Of course, fulfilling the required parts of it did seem tedious at first, but became more doable as I got better. The drawings I had to copy from the textbook were perhaps the most tedious due to their nature of being from a textbook. Once the assignments progressed to sketching subjects outside, it became more relaxing and enjoyable.

Each individual entry is different. I am not talking about what the subject is, though that certainly is true; I am talking about how that particular day was going for me and where I was mentally and emotionally. There were days where I was doing better than others. One or two of the entries were at more stressful times of the semester. Sketching a squirrel was perhaps one of the more difficult notebook entries because the animal is in constant movement. That is where other portions of the course come in. I remember one of the assignments early in the semester was closing my eyes and listening to my surroundings for a few minutes. This was, for me, perhaps one of the more helpful assignments. It helped remind me to just relax; that I do not need to be doing something all the time.

Once I understood the requirements, the actual act of keeping a naturalist notebook was not as complicated as I had initially thought. For me, the hardest part was choosing a suitable subject and being aware of my surroundings. There were times when it was easy to tune out my surroundings. Unlike one of my preconceptions, the naturalist notebook portion of the class was actually engaging, though not in the way I anticipated. The engagement in class was not so much with classmates (though that was present and useful), but with my natural surroundings. Over the course of the semester, I found keeping a naturalist notebook to be relaxing. While I am still not the greatest artist around, I still found this portion of the class to be beneficial in my improvement in that area. These assignments also provided me with another reason to get outside. Not only that, but it allowed me to enjoy nature even more. Sketching a subject requires patience; this then forces me to slow dawn and take a deep breath.

Over the course of this class, I learned that keeping a naturalist notebook is more than just drawing a plant or animal. It is also about capturing the subject in the moment; that is, why is it behaving in a particular way and what is going on around you. Keeping a naturalist notebook requires you to pay attention to more than just the subject of interest. It also requires a decent degree of patience from the individual. Sometimes, we just need to slow down and take a deep breath. Life needs to be enjoyed. The naturalist notebook assignments helped me realize that fact more that I had previously. Sketching in my notebook also allowed me to take a closer look at the subject I was attempting to copy on the page.

For this essay, I decided to choose to notebook entries, the first and the second to last. This is because, they represent what one aspect of this class is about: improvement. As stated earlier, I’m not the greatest artist around. That being said, as I got further into the course, my entries improved. I learned that getting details exact is not always the most important thing, in the beginning at least. What is important is being able to bring the subject to life on the page and putting in the effort to get better. Though I may not continue to sketch on a regular basis, this course taught me that my sketches do not need to be perfect. However, that is something I still need to work on.